How to Help a Friend Going Through a Hard Time
As Christians, we know we are called to carry one another’s burdens, but often, this seems easier said than done.
Helping others during a tough time is not easy.
Your friend may be suffering a horrible loss, and you may worry that you may do or say something that makes her pain worse. Your friend may be stuck in what seems like a hopeless situation, and you may simply not know what to do.
While we know we should help a friend going through a hard time, we just don’t know how to do it in a practical way.
That ends today.
We’re providing simple, practical tips for helping a friend going through a hard time.
1. Pray for Them
One of the best ways to help those going through something difficult is to pray for them – or even pray with them.
Christians often tell others who are struggling with one of life’s hardships that they will pray for them.
If we’re honest, sometimes they forget.
Here are some practical ways to prioritize prayer for those who are hurting.
- As soon as you say, “I’ll pray for you,” stop what you are doing and pray.
- When you think about your friend, text them a prayer so they can see the words you are offering to God on their behalf.
- If you speak to them in person or on the phone, ask if you can pray with them before you go.
2. Let Them Share
One of the hardest but most meaningful ways to help a friend going through a hard time is to simply allow them to share what they are going through.
Listen to them as they speak. Don’t interrupt or try to add to the conversation. Simply give them the space to vent, share their hurt, or express their pain.
3. Share Scripture
The Holy Scripture gives us hope, so sharing God’s Word is a good way to encourage those going through a challenging time. However, be sure to use discernment when you share Scripture…especially when someone is suffering from an unimaginable loss.
Wycliffe Bible Translators suggests, “The Bible is a source of comfort, but God has also granted us discernment in quoting it to friends going through difficulties. For example, telling someone who has just lost a loved one that ‘we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28, NIV) might actually make the grieving person feel worse. While Scripture is always true, the Holy Spirit can help us discern what is most helpful and potentially harmful to a person we love in their moment of pain. We can follow the example of Jesus, who often sat silently and mourned with those who were in pain.”
4. Get Them Out of the House
Sometimes a change of scenery is much needed.
For example, if your friend is sitting in a house surrounded by mourners 24/7, she may need a break.
Offer to go on a walk with her or invite her out for coffee or dinner.
5. Practice Thoughtfulness
If someone you care about is going through a hard time, spend some time thinking about how you can serve him or her.
What would help her?
How can you help carry her burden?
Do you know something she needs?
If you know these things, do them.
For example, if a friend is visiting his wife in the hospital for days on end, consider giving him gift cards to nearby restaurants or Grubhub so he can eat something other than hospital cafeteria food.
If your friend has kids, offer to watch them or pick them up from school.
Are they drowning in car repair bills? Get a collection going to help cover some of the costs.
6. Stop Saying, “If You Need Anything, Let Me Know.”
This is a hard lesson I have had to learn myself over the last year or so.
When someone is going through a hard time, it’s common to say, “If you need something, let me know.”
Your friend who has just had a baby, lost a loved one, suffered a car accident, etc., probably doesn’t even know what she needs. Telling her to let you know places the burden back in her hands.
And who wants to call someone and say, “Hey. I could really use a meal or a house cleaning”?
Instead of waiting for your friend to tell you what she needs, practice thoughtfulness and go ahead and do something.
Take her the meal. Start the meal train. Collect gift cards. Mow the lawn.
7. Avoid Giving Advice
Depending on the situation, you may be tempted to give advice.
When your friend is suffering, they may not be receptive to the advice you’re offering.
And you don’t want to give the wrong advice, either.
With that being said, if your friend asks for advice or is verbally asking about solutions, and if you have advice that really may help, then share it.
8. Be a Source of Encouragement
Make a point to always have a word of encouragement for your friend.
This doesn’t mean that you should spew cliches or offer trite pieces of advice. It means you should use kind words and remind your friend of her strength.
Be your friend’s cheerleader.
9. Point Them to the Right Help
Your friend may be dealing with something that is far beyond your abilities.
While you should continue to be a friend, there may come a time when you need to encourage your friend to seek help from a professional.
If you are in over your head, consider encouraging your friend to speak with a pastor or biblical counselor.
10. Don’t Walk Away
One of the hardest but most loving ways to help a friend going through a hard time is to walk toward their pain instead of away from it.
Relevant Magazine suggests, “No matter how scared you might feel, or inadequate, it’s ok. You are likely placing a greater expectation upon yourself than your hurting friend is. Your friend doesn’t need you to be competent; your friend needs you to care. So, don’t worry about feeling like you may not have all of the right answers. The important thing is to care and show compassion. Whatever you do, don’t move away from a hurting friend.”